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New California bill would ban line skipping service Clear from airports in name of equity

A new bill would ban the expedited security screening company Clear from operating in California airports as its proponents say it lets wealthier people skip the line.

New legislation being proposed in California would ban the expedited security screening company Clear from operating in the state’s airports, as proponents say the service raises equity issues given it effectively lets wealthier people skip ahead of passengers waiting in line to be screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents. 

The bill, SB-1372, the first of its kind in the U.S., would require third-party vendors like Clear to get their own dedicated security lane or lose the ability to operate in California airports.

Clear charges members $189 per year to verify passengers' identities at airports, allowing them to bypass TSA checkpoints. The service is in use at more than 55 airports across the U.S., as well as at dozens of sports stadiums and other venues, according to its website. Members verify their identity at Clear kiosks. It is separate to the TSA Pre-Check, although many Clear members use both services.  


State Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat, is sponsoring the legislation, and it has bipartisan support from Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen.

"It's a basic equity issue when you see people subscribed to a concierge service being escorted in front of people who have waited a long time to get to the front of TSA line," Newman told CBS MoneyWatch. 

"Everyone is beaten down by the travel experience, and if Clear escorts a customer in front of you and tells TSA, 'Sorry, I have someone better,' it's really frustrating." 

"I do understand the frustration stated in Senator Newman’s bill," Nguyen, who sits on the transportation committee, told Politico. "It becomes a haves vs. have-nots where those who can afford it jump in front of the rest of us. They even cut in front of TSA Pre-boarding pass travelers who have been screened by the TSA."

Six major airlines — Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue and Hawaiian — are opposing the bill and wrote a letter to Senate Transportation Committee Chair Dave Cortese this month arguing its passage would result in revenue losses.

They wrote that the services were used more than 5 million times in California in 2023.


The airlines argued that the bill "not only threatens to increase fees on air carriers but also severely restricts airports’ ability to effectively manage lines at the security checkpoint, resulting in a negative travel experience for our California customers."

A Clear spokesperson echoed the airline's concerns.

"We will continue to work constructively with legislators as well as the federal government and our airport partners to ensure operations at California airports are as seamless and efficient as possible," Ricardo Quinto said in a statement to Politico.

Supporters of the bill include the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and the union representing Transportation Security Officers in Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose.


"Clear is nothing more than the luxury resale of upcharge of space in the airport security queue, where those who pay can skip the line at the direct expense of every other traveler," James Murdock, president of AFGE Local 1230, the TSA officer union's local chapter, wrote in a separate letter to Cortese, according to CBS.

 "While Clear may save time for its paying customers, non-customers suffer from Clear's aggressive sales tactics and longer security queues while they enter an essential security screening process." 

The bill is set to come before the California State Senate's transportation committee on Tuesday.

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